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Bournemouth sends rough sleepers to leave town

July 26 2016
© Pierre Terre © Pierre Terre
Town Council under fire for issuing one-way tickets to anywhere else...

Bournemouth Council has come under fire after it increased efforts to move rough sleepers out of town by issuing ‘travel warrants’ – one-way train tickets to another borough or city where the person has connections.

The practice – known officially as ‘reconnection’ – has been brought in by various local authorities since the mid-2000s and is endorsed by central government.

At the time of the last street count in 2015, Bournemouth was estimated to have 47 rough sleepers – a 30 per cent increase on the year before – and has seen demand for temporary accommodation double since September 2015.

The ‘reconnection’ programme is part of a £200,000 scheme by Bournemouth Council to address homelessness issues; this includes wages for two extra full-time staff members, one of whom will focus on relocating rough sleepers not originally from Bournemouth. It is also looking at granting policing powers to private security staff that would work in the town centre as part of this scheme.

‘Reconnection’ is not exclusive to Bournemouth but council approaches vary. A 2015 Crisis report points out that what councils say makes a rough sleeper a ‘local’ varies.

In some cases, those who refuse ‘reconnection’ are then denied access to services, depriving them of help unless they go elsewhere.

Councillor Robert Lawton has defended Bournemouth Council’s decision, telling the Telegraph: “Obviously if someone is starving we will help, or if they need accommodation for the night, but certainly the next day we would encourage them to get on the train and pay for their fare.”

Bournemouth has a less than stellar track record when it comes to dealing with this issue; in December the authority was heavily criticised in the national media for its decision to play uncomfortably loud music at its coach station in an attempt to drive away rough sleepers. A 4,000-strong petition castigated this decision, stating that it went ‘against the morals of the majority of Bournemouth’s residents’.

Legally before the council tells you to apply for support from another council it must assess if you are legally homeless, in priority need and have a right to help. To prove a local connection you should live or work in the area, or have family there, though you may have other connections. You cannot be sent back to your local area if this would put you at risk in any way.

Get help and support: england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/homelessness/help_from_the_council_when_homeless/local_connection

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